South-east of India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal are the stuff of picture postcards. Although the archipelago comprises more than 300 islands, only over a dozen are open to tourists, with the capital located in Port Blair. This is your jumping-off point to the islands. Most of the Nicobar islands are off limits, since they are inhabited by ancient tribes that are not used to outsiders.
The star of the Andamans is Havelock Island’s Radhanagar beach, simply known as Beach Number 7. It is one of India’s most beautiful beaches, with azure blue waters and fine sand shores; great for watersports such as scuba diving and snorkelling. Step into its steamy tropical rainforest, where you can stay at the rustic wood-and-rattan bungalows (below) of eco-friendly resort Barefoot at Havelock.
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2. Elephant Beach
Elephant Beach, also located on Havelock Island, is another serene shore that offers exciting snorkelling. You could also get a close glimpse of the coral reefs and marine life through Experience Andamans’ Sea Walk; you’ll be equipped with a special helmet that allows you to breathe normally while underwater. A more interesting way to reach Elephant Beach from Port Blair is to eschew the boat ride and hike for half an hour through lush forest.
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3. Vijaynagar Beach
Locally referred to as Beach Number 5, Vijaynagar beach is a delight for its shallow and clean waters, which makes it the ideal spot for lazy swims. The beach itself is ringed by coconut palm trees, giving it a tropical beauty. Most of Havelock Island’s resorts and hotels are clustered around this area, making it popular among vacationers.
4. Casuarina Beach
Located on the North Andaman Island, the town of Diglipur is a haven for those seeking an eco-friendly experience away from urban stress. Casuarina Beach is a pristine and isolated stretch of turquoise blue water and powdery sand, lined with the occasional palm tree. This part of the Andamans is a particular favourite of those wishing to hike up the 732m-high Saddle Peak (below), the highest point in the archipelago.
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5. Ross and Smith Islands
These two islands are separated by a long sandbar that disappears during high tide. While off the beaten track, their beaches are just a 30-minute boat ride from Ariel Bay Jetty in Diglipur. The waters surrounding them are crystal clear and emerald green, and suitable for swimming. Surrounded by thick tropical forests, the islands are also home to a marine sanctuary. From October to March, they are the perfect spot for watching the olive ridley turtles hatch and nest.
6. Lalaji Bay
To hear the chirping of the Andamans’ avifauna, Lalaji Bay Beach on Long Island, far from the tourist crowds, is one of your best bets. To reach it, the 90-minute trek through the jungles from the main jetty is utterly worth it, if only for the complete silence – and the occasional sight of dolphins leaping up from the sea. The calm waters of this silver-sand beach are also perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
– TEXT BY CHARUKESI RAMADURAI
PHOTOS: BAREFOOT AT HAVELOCK (BAREFOOT AT HAVELOCK BUNGALOWS, ELEPHANT BEACH), INSTAGRAM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.